Serious questions must be asked of the Minister of Water and Sanitation, Senzo Mchunu, who has given notice of his intent to expand the geographic area of the Amatola Water Board to cover the entire Eastern Cape.
Minister Mchunu published his intention in a government gazette earlier this week, calling for comments within the next 60 days.
Appointing the Amatola Water Board to service the entire Eastern Cape will be a guaranteed administrative and an operational recipe for disaster. The decision will decimate the revenue streams of municipalities that would fall under the Board, making them financially unsustainable and pushing them further down the road to collapse.
This is the same Amatola Water Board, which was handed over to the Special Investigating Unit by President Cyril Ramaphosa in August following serious allegations of corruption and maladministration.
It is also the same Amatola Water whose staff went on strike earlier this year, leaving thousands of Buffalo City residents without water for weeks. The same institution failed to pay contractors, thus delaying critical upgrades to the Nooitgedacht Water scheme at a time when Nelson Mandela Bay was facing day zero.
Amatola Water has failed to deliver bulk water service in municipalities such as Makana, Ndlambe and Ngqushwa. The Board has shown time and again that it is incapable of managing the current projects that it has been tasked with.
We cannot give control of such a precious resource, in a water-scarce province, to allegedly corrupt individuals who could exploit their position for personal gain.
Instead, there should rather be an effort to capacitate water authorities to effectively discharge their responsibilities and investment in developing new and upgrading existing provincial water infrastructure
Minister Mchunu must explain how he feels that an organisation that he is reported to have said is in dire financial straits and its board deeply divided, can be put in control of an entire province’s water.
The Minister has also been accused of meddling in the day-to-day running of Amatola Water by purging the current staff and reinstating board members who were fired by his predecessor, Lindiwe Sisulu, over wrongdoing.
The DA in the Eastern Cape will submit our objection to this decision by the Minister, as set out in the gazette.
I will also be writing to the MEC of COGTA, Zolile Williams, to urge him to review this preposterous decision and put the people of this province and their need for water security first. This ill-conceived move can only lead to an unmitigated disaster for the province.